The sanctity of some places is being maintained with zero negativity as no animals are killed or carcases consumed because religion plays an important role in promoting vegetarianism as has been proved by laws, rules and orders which forbid the consumption of non-vegetarian foods (and alcohol) in and around many prominent Hindu shrines and other places like Jain temples and tirthas in different parts of India. No one objects, but in fact respect and happily implement each and every such ban.

The most famous Sri Venkateswara temple at Tirupati (Chittoor district, Andhra Pradesh) promotes vegetarianism by requesting people visiting Tirumala to give due respect by not eating non-vegetarian food, consuming alcohol, wearing flowers, spitting, littering, creating any kind of nuisance and not carrying mobile phones or cameras inside the temple.

Also, in Andhra Pradesh, the Devipuram Tantra ashram (not far from Vizagapatnam) is the only Tantra ashram which is vegetarian.

At Srikakulam (120 kms from Visakhapatnam) in Andhra Pradesh the Kurmamnatha Swamy temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu’s second avatar, the tortoise.

For the past few years a select group of tantriks have been gathering at the Kamakhya temple on Nilachal Hill, Guwahati in Assam, on Durga Ashtami and sacrificing instead of humans and animals, effigies made of flour, however, no outsider is allowed to witness the sacrifice.

A campaign launched in 2006 to turn Bodh Gaya (110 kms from Patna, Bihar) into a vegetarian zone is gradually gaining support. It is the place where Gautam Buddha attained enlightenment and preached non-violence towards all living beings.

At Pawapuri in Nalanda District of Bihar, where Lord Mahavir attained salvation, everyone abstains from non-vegetarian food and alcohol. Fishing is prohibited around the Pawapuri Jal Mandir and when a fish dies it is given a proper burial.

There exists a temple in Buxar, Bihar, where for decades dogs have been attending pujas. They wag their tails during the aarti and bark in unison when the temple bells are rung. The prasad is shared with them!

(120 kms from Raipur) is a pilgrimage centre where meat and liquor has been banned by the Chhatisgarh state government. Two other temple towns of the state, Rajim and Shivrinarayan, are eagerly awaiting a similar ban.

It was reported in 2010 that the state government had banned animal sacrifice at the Chandrahasini Devi temple in Janjgir-Champa district of Chhatisgarh, but its implementation was difficult.

In 1983 the Municipal Corporation of Delhi imposed a ban on all restaurants serving non-vegetarian food within a hundred metres of a temple and although it was challenged, in 2003 the Delhi High Court upheld the ban, and it is being enforced. In 2011 the MCD decided to strictly enforce the ban on alcohol and non-veg food at functions held in halls named after religious leaders or if located inside temple premises, e.g. Mahavir Vatika Community Hall in Daryaganj.

The Municipal Corporation of Delhi does not want non-vegetarian items to be prominently displayed. And, meat shops in Gurugram are not allowed to open on certain days.

The Jain Bird Hospital opposite the Red Fort of Delhi is owned and run free of charge by the adjoining Digambar Jain Lal Mandir.

Also at Delhi, no food is allowed to be taken into the Akshardham or Swaminarayan temple complex. Pure vegetarian food is available inside.

The Kaal Bhairava temples in places like New Delhi and Varanasi feature statues of dogs. A temple in Chennapatna, Ramanagaram District, Karnataka, and another at Ranebennur, Havari District, also honours dogs. The dog God – Sri Naayidole Veerappa – temple is situated next to that of the village deity Sri Veeramasti Kempamma since the dog God is said to be her trusted lieutenant. Besides puja the villagers also conduct an annual fair to hail the dog God. Lord Dattatreya temples are found in Maharashtra, Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh. Lord Dattatreya, considered a personification of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, is always accompanied by four dogs symbolising the four Vedas. At the main temple in Khanpur of Patiala district in Punjab, the first bhogs or offerings have been given to dogs for over 300 years.

Teenage boys no longer bite a piglet to death at Terekol in Goa in celebration of St John’s Baptism. The barbaric custom was permanently stopped in 1989 in response to an appeal made by Beauty Without Cruelty to the Catholic Church.

At Palitana, the sacred city for the Jains, since 1999 no non-vegetarian food is served or sold within 250 metres of Taleti (the point at which the climb up Shatrunjaya hills begins) except by some eateries in the Parimal area of the city. As the Gujarat state government hadn’t officially banned non-veg, in 2014 Jain monks demanded “hinsa, kasaai, vyasan mukt Palitana” (violence, butchery and vice free Palitana) for this their biggest and holiest of pilgrim spots. The Jambudweep (sub-sect of the Shwetambar Jains) group gave compensation ranging from Rs 5 to 9 lakh to butchers and eatery owners who solemnly agreed on notarised stamp paper to give up their profession. However, fishing is banned on the Shetrunji river within 5 kms of holy pilgrimage place. Thus in 2014 Palitana became the first city in the world to be legally vegetarian. Buying, selling, penning, etc of animals for their flesh and eggs or any related work has been outlawed.

In another move of respect for the Jain religion, in March 2008, the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation’s decision to close slaughter houses across the state for nine continuous days during Paryushan was upheld by the Supreme Court. The city has a strong tradition of being shudhdh shakahari – so much so, the world’s first all-vegetarian Pizza Hut opened here. Subway was also forced to open their “only all-vegetarian” outlet here. It is however unfortunate that non-vegetarian places have been coming up in the city and that they are being patronised not only by outsiders but Gujaratis too.

In 2021 Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) ordered to remove stalls of non-vegetarian food from public roads and 100 metres from schools and religious places. Similar orders prohibiting the preparation and display of non-vegetarian food in public were issued in Rajkot, Vadodara and Junagarh. However, around Vastrapur lake (Ahmedabad) hawkers selling eggs and non-veg foods had petitioned the High Court against the AMC whose counsel claimed that no particular group had been discriminated against, and the drive of confiscating the carts & stalls was an extension of the anti-encroachment campaign against vendors creating hurdles in traffic movement and blocking footpaths.

For some years slaughter houses in several cities have been ordered to remain closed for a couple of days in respect of Paryushan. However, when in 2015 the Mira Bhayander Municipal Corporation of Mumbai voted to ban not only slaughter of animals, but also the sale of all meat for 8 days during this period, it turned into a political controversy. However, following protests, the number of days was lessened in Mumbai. The ban was for different durations in various cities and states, with slaughter and/or sale being banned on days ranging from 2 to 9 days.

During Shradh or Pitru Paksha (a 15-day lunar period) Hindus pay homage to their ancestors and the rituals involve feeding crows, cows, dogs, ants, or immersing the pind daan or food offerings in water for fish to consume. It is believed that the ritual will is a karmic debt to ancestral departed souls. However, at the Goud Saraswat Brahman Temple Trust’s Banganga Tank in Mumbai immersing large quantities of pind results in pollution and thousands of dead fish are found floating in the tank every year after Pitru Paksha. Over the years the Municipality has introduced several measures like adding clean water into the tank, pumping out dirty water and deploying people to clean the tank. Even putting up boards instructing people to not immerse pind in the water but dip it briefly and place it in hundis or collection containers, but no one follows these instructions and the authorities do not ensure they are observed. Knowing that so many fish die in this tank due to the pind, BWC wonders why people do not themselves choose to feed other animals and birds like crows, cows and dogs instead, more so since this is ritually observed as well. In 2022 BWC wrote to the Trustees of the Goud Saraswat Brahman Temple Trust requesting them to take appropriate steps to ensure that once again thousands of fish do not die.

Interestingly Shradh rituals are incomplete without feeding cows as they are considered as sacred as Brahmins to Hindus. Dogs have a special place in Hindu mythology and feeding them Shradh food is considered an auspicious. As for crows, it is believed that ancestors arrive on earth in the form of crows so giving them Shradh food is as good as paying direct homage to forefathers and gratifying their souls. Lastly, by feeding ants four balls of sugar, ancestors are said to bless those who perform this ritual.

To commemorate the 2,600th birth anniversary of Lord Mahavir in 2001, Gujarat prohibited cooking, bringing into its buildings and serving non-vegetarian food (including eggs) in all its state guest houses at its Mount Abu, Rajasthan circuit house and the Gujarat Bhavans at New Delhi and Mumbai. In 2012 there was a demand by bureaucrats to serve non-veg food at government guest houses but the proposal was emphatically turned down saying this wouldn’t be allowed as the majority of users of government properties were Gujarati vegetarians.

Gujarati vegetarian cuisine is served at local restaurants around the holy places of Girnar, Taranga Hills, Somnath and in Veraval; and only vegetarian Kathiawad food is available at Dwarka in Saurashtra.

People have seen many wild birds flying around the temple at Somnath. (In fact, it is common to see not only free birds, but other animals like dogs and cows on temple grounds on all temple complexes in India.) In 2017-18 in response to BWC asking the Gujarat state government to reconsider setting up a Marine Oceanarium at Somnath, the government replied that they did not plan to establish it. Furthermore, in January 2019 the Gujarat government declared Somnath as an “only veg zone” with non-veg being banned from the temple town and the peripheral areas.

All restaurants at Katra, a town in Jammu & Kashmir State that serves as the base camp for the yatra to the holy shrine of Shri Mata Vaishno Deviji, provide pure vegetarian food, minus onion and garlic too. Over and above which pilgrims are requested to preserve and uphold the sanctity of the holy place and desist from demanding non-vegetarian meals or alcohol from any outlet.

In tune with this sentiment, in November 2021 the Sattvik Council of India said in a statement that the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) had begun serving sattvik certified food in its Katra Vande Bharat Express because the train’s last stop was the Vaishno Devi temple. Some other trains would also be sattvik certified in order to promote vegetarian-friendly travel and IRCTC base kitchens, executive lounges, budget hotels, food plazas, travel and tour packages would also be sattvik certified.

Jains believe that the tigers living in the Parasnath temple’s dense cliff forest and shrines near Dhanbad in Jharkhand are vegetarian.

The Karnataka state government has imposed a ban on consumption and sale of non-vegetarian food and liquor around 200 metres radius of the Dattapeetha cave temple in Chikkamagaloor district and boards put up warn the public that if not abided by, a fine of Rs 500 will be imposed. Some other pilgrimage sites in Dakshina Kannada and Udupi have also banned non-vegetarian food and liquor. Since 2004 consumption of non-vegetarian items has been prohibited at the Baba Budangiri shrine. The Virupaksha temple priests have demanded that the Karanataka Government ban the sale and consumption of non-vegetarian food, alcohol and narcotics within a radius of 3 kms. At Shravanabelagola, one of the most important Jain centres in the world, there is no slaughter house and only vegetarian food is available.

In 2022 the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) that covers 741 sq kms and has a population of 6.8 million, banned the slaughter and sale of meat in Bengaluru on Ganesh Chaturthi.

No animals are sacrificed at the Udbur village temple in Mysore district of Karnataka. Beauty Without Cruelty activists convinced the villagers to give up the practice during Sankranti 1998 and since then, they have never sacrificed any animals.

The Shree Ananthapadmanabha Swamy temple in the Kasaragod district of Kerala was guarded by a vegetarian crocodile named Babiya who lived in the temple lake for over 7 decades till its death in 2022. Priests used to offer it prasadam/naivedyam every morning.

As the town of Guruvayoor, near Thrissur in Kerala revolves around the Sri Krishna temple, all its restaurants offer only vegetarian food. However, the cruelty of keeping temple elephants can not be excused here, as elsewhere.

The glorified temple elephants are certainly not happy. They often run amok injuring and killing people. About 100 temple elephants take part in Thrissur Pooram. Kuddamattam is performed atop caparisoned elephants. Rules are flouted and many gajarajas suffer.

During Onam at the annual Pulikali festival in Thrissur’s Vadakkunnathan temple sees several processions of troupes of dancers for which people apply multiple coats of paints to their bodies to get the right tiger look. This festival is a synthesis of the Tamil Nadu folk dance of Puliyattam which performed during Pongal and the Muslim festival of Muharram. Puliyattam has its origin in shepherd culture and feathers depictions of tigers preying on goats. Since Muslims regard Ali (whose family’s martyrdom is commemorated during Muharram) as the tiger of Allah, they dress up as the beast and perform a kind of tiger dance during Muharram. In Kerala, these two traditions have been synthesised into Pulikali.

In Kerala, about 5,000 Sarpa Kavus, or shrines dedicated to the serpent god, have snakes, lizards and frogs living in the thick foliage of groves adjoining temples owned mainly by Nair and Brahmin families. According to Hindu mythology, serpent deities Ananta, Kaliya and Vasuki (the three most prominent) are semi-divine beings.

Non-vegetarian food is not allowed in the Mata Amitanandamayi Math at Amritapuri, Kollam in Kerala, and Amma advocates vegetarianism. The trust runs vegetarian soup kitchens in the US.

Many of the 600 or so donkeys, made to trek up and down 4 kms carrying mainly jaggery, rice and foodstuffs to the Sabarimala temple in Kerala, used to get exhausted and were left to fend for themselves. However, in November 2010 just before the season began, the Travancore Devaswom Board which is in charge of the temple’s administration pledged to the Kerala High Court that it would ensure that the donkeys were properly inspected and only if found fit would be allowed to go up, numbered, given medical treatment, and not abandoned by contractors and owners. However, it was unfortunate that in January 2011, 100 of the 2 lakh pilgrims died coming down the hill in a stampede.

The erstwhile Travancore royal family’s current patriarch, Sree Utthradom Thirumal Marthanda Varma whose ancestor surrendered himself, his family and state to Sree Padmanabha – the Sree Ananda  Padmanabhaswamy temple at Thiruvanthapuram, Kerala, whose vaults contain over Rs 1 lakh crore treasures – becoming a vassal of the Lord, declared that it was a family tradition since 870 AD not to imbibe intoxicants or meat, and be humble, humane and god-oriented. To this day they have a reputation of leading a very simple lifestyle as regards what they eat, wear and do. Incidentally the shankha/conch (shell) is the emblem of the Travancore state and is prominently displayed at the Pattom Palace.

People who wish to get rid of ants from their houses visit the Urumbachan Gurusthanam temple at Kappanayilparambu, Thottada, Kannur in Kerala and offer coconuts. No one in this area hurts ants as they have been worshiping them for centuries.

A horse-riding competition is the main attraction of the annual Angadi Vela or Kuthira Vela (horse festival) of the Vettakaruppa Swamy temple at Thathamangalam in Chittur taluk of Palakkad district in Kerala. For the temple fete in 2011 a procession of 45 caparisoned elephants was organised.

In the holy cities of Ujjain (Avantika) and twin towns of Maheshwar and Amarkantak in Madhya Pradesh, since 2004 the sale of meat, fish, eggs and liquor is forbidden, except in certain parts of the cities. For some years non-vegetarian food and alcohol has been banned at all declared Hindu religious places in MP. In fact, Madhya Pradesh cuisine is mainly vegetarian.

Non-vegetarian food isn’t allowed in the area of Bawangaja, a Jain pilgrimage centre of MP.

In 2011 the high court banned animal sacrifice, axing trees and sale of alcohol in and around the Shiva Baba temple in Nimbola, Burhanpur district of MP, during the mela that takes place covering the first half of the month of Magh.

Staple vegetarian food is found in the vicinity of the Sai Baba Sansthan complex at Shirdi, Maharashtra. In fact, the 5-star hotel Sun-’n-Sand and Domino’s Pizza at Shirdi both maintain the sanctity of their location by offering strict vegetarian fare. Pune is the headquarters of the Sadhu Vaswani Mission and they have successfully demanded that slaughter houses be closed on Sadhu Vaswani’s birthday celebrated by the mission as Meatless Day on 25th November. Similarly, Jain religious heads and organisations have successfully demanded that slaughter houses be kept closed on Mahavir Jayanti. In response to a demand by warkaris, beginning 2019 non-veg and liquor outlets would all be mandated to close under order of the Pune District Administration along the route taken by the annual Palkhi processions by the followers of Sant Dnyaeshwar starting from Alandi, and Sant Tukaram starting from Dehu and passing through Pune enroute Pandharpur in Solapur District. In 2022 with the Panchayat banned the sale of non-veg food items in Dehu town and flying squads were formed to keep a check and penalise violators. It seems the sale of chicken, mutton and fish had never occurred in the town till two years ago (during the pandemic) when about 10 shops had come up, so with this order they reverted to the old custom in the abode of Sant Tukaram Maharaj. 

Vegetarian meals are cooked by the disciples at Pune’s Osho Commune, in keeping with Osho Rajneesh’s philosophy.

An unwritten code of conduct voluntarily makes every one (about 1000 persons) living in the village of Dhondewadi (Karad, Satara, Maharashtra) observe lacto-vegetarianism.

At Mahalunge Padwal (Ambegaon, Maharashtra) on Bail Pola (celebrated on the last day of Shravan month in some places and on the last day of Badrapad month in other places) living and miniature bulls made of clay (kept alongside gods and goddesses on home altars) are worshiped. The festival involves daubing bulls and humans with turmeric and red gulal powders and dancing to the beat of drums made of animal skin and first heated under a fire.

The temple of Lord Marjing dedicated to horses, is atop a small hill on the outskirts of Imphal in Manipur. The main deity Iboudhou Marjing is the God of the horses and sits on a winged pony, surrounded by small marble ponies. Thousands of ponies used to roam around the area.

Around the Jagannath temple at Puri in Odisha, the municipal corporation in 1994 passed legislation to stop the sale and preparation of meat, fish, poultry, eggs, in all restaurants and shops within specific areas around the temple and on certain roads; also playing of non-religious music in public was restricted. Legend has it that the cooking of vegetarian food in the temple kitchen is supervised by the Goddess Lakshmi. In fact, in order to restore the purity of the city, the importance of maintaining vegetarianism is being created on an on-going basis through small public meetings, the response for which has been encouraging. (In October 2016 Air India in its in-flight magazine Shubh Yatra mischievously published an article that stated non-veg dishes were served in the Jagannath temple. They were forced by the Jagannath Sena and politicians to announce a public apology and remove all copies of the issue as well as its online version.) Despite this, it is unfortunate that the temple utilises kasturi/musk obtained from Nepal from the deer for mukh shringar of the holy trinity of Jagannath, Subhdra and Balabhadra. In 2014, BWC asked the Ministry of Environment & Forests to intervene and stop the use of musk at this 12th century shrine.

At the Konark temple (65 kms from Bhubhaneswar) typical Oriya food which is basically vegetarian (with rice and vegetables being the chief items) is available.

On Mahashtami Day goats, lambs and cocks were sacrificed at a Durga temple in Sirlo (55 kms from Bhubhaneswar) in Odisha. However, it is understood that since 1985 animal sacrifices have been stopped at the Kataka Chandi temple and at the Sarala temple in the area.

At the Bhadrakali shrine (104 kms from Cuttack) in Odisha, vegetables such as white pumpkin and cucumber are “sacrificed” – not animals.

Almost all the inhabitants of Maniabandha, a small village in Odisha, are Buddhist. They trace their descent to the followers of Buddha who migrated from West Bengal 5,000 years ago. Not only does the entire village strictly observe vegetarianism, but there are nearly 3,000 looms actively creating weft Ikat textiles without silk. It is testimony to their unswerving commitment to non-violence that even in the battle for survival against competitors all Maniabandhas have chosen to stand by their beliefs and refused to use silk.

The Sri Aurobindo Ashram at Auroville, Puducherry, serves vegetarian dishes (and unfortunately egg preparations), most of which are made from vegetables grown on its farm.

The residents of a town called Lehragaga in Punjab never hurt a monkey. When in the late 1980s a monkey was shot, prior to cremating it, people paraded its corpse through the town, following which a temple was built in its memory. Lehragaga is near the Punjab-Haryana border, 40 kms from Sangrur, and is the abode of two groups of monkeys – one group lives inside the town while the other group near the canal, outside the town. Legend says that several centuries back the town folk had to plead with the monkeys to return because after they had been shooed away to live in the forest, famine occurred in Lehragaga. They therefore continue to fear the wrath of the monkeys and have learnt to live with them.

Some minority sects of Sikhs like the Namdharis are strict vegetarians. The Golden temple in Amritsar, Punjab, forbids the consumption of non-vegetarian food or any intoxicant (opium, liquor or tobacco) within its periphery. The Sikhs are famous for their langars or free community vegetarian-only meals dished out from all Gurudwaras and at gatherings on their festivals. Similarly, the Radha Soami Satsang Beas, headquartered at Dera Baba Jaimal Singh near the river Beas is a philosophical organisation based on teachings of all religions which promotes a lacto-vegetarian diet, abstinence from intoxicants, a moral way of life and the practice of daily meditation and Surat Shabd yoga. The Dera (Beas ashram) also maintains a langar which operates round the clock and is capable of feeding upto 300,000 visitors three simple and nourishing vegetarian meals a day. In fact, vegetables and fruits are organically grown on more than 1,000 acres by the 6,000 Dera residents who are all vegetarian.

Pushkar (14 kms from Ajmer, Rajasthan) has an unwritten, but well observed rule, of no non-vegetarian food or liquor consumption. (Given the fact that Pushkar draws the most tourists from aboard, it proves that foreigners do not expect or demand to eat meat in India.)  It is sad that the leather for the saddles and footwear as well as bone jewellery sold here is of camel origin.

The Rankapur Jain temple in Rajasthan features a carving made out of a single marble rock, depicting 108 snakes’ heads.

The Karni Mata temple at Deshnok village, near Bikaner, Rajasthan, houses thousands of rats. They have been considered sacred for generations.

Just before sunset monkeys congregate at one of the three sacred pools of water of the Galta Monkey temple at Jaipur.

At a Jain temple in Beawar, Rajasthan, for over 50 years the practice of feeding hundreds of pigeons takes place in a unique manner at 2 pm daily. Unless the birds are invited inside to pick at the grain laid out for them they do not enter but wait outside the premises to be called inside.

Shaakambhari temples are so called because the goddess provides vegetarian food for her devotees. These temples are mainly found in Rajasthan, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh.

The Seventh Day Adventists advocate vegetarianism on health grounds – not only flesh but alcohol, tobacco and drugs are also forbidden by their numerous Church run hospitals, educational institutions, etc. across India. Their Southern Asia Division is 40 kms from Bengaluru, at Hosur in Tamil Nadu.

Non-vegetarian food is not allowed at the Theosophical Society’s international headquarters at Adyar, Chennai. Mylapore has several old temples, and non-vegetarian food is unavailable in the Brahmin-dominated Mada Veethi area.

Most of the eateries in the temple town of Rameshwaram in Tamil Nadu offer typical South Indian vegetarian food. (Ironically, fish and prawns are found in abundance and even exported from Rameshwaram.)

People have seen wild parrots perching on the Kailasanatha temple, Kanchipuram.

At the Madhurai temple, the “fish-eyed” Goddess Meenakshi is seen to be accompanied with a parrot. The temple used to accept live parrots donated by devotees and keep them in a large cage. Requests from an animal welfare organisation and some devotees made the temple authorities realise the cruelty involved and seeing that the parrots were dying in captivity, they decided around 2007 to discontinue accepting birds. They “released” the existing 60 or so birds – none must have survived. However, the beneficial outcome in the long run was that since then, every year about 1,000 parrots have not been subjected to trapping in the wilds and caging at this temple.

The Indian flying fox is protected by the local community that worship them at the Madhukaatu Kali sacred grove in Pudukottai district. In Puliankulam village (55 kms from Madurai) there is a huge banyan tree which is home to a huge colony consisting of hundreds of fruit bats that are considered sacred. They are believed to be protected by Muniyandi, a spirit who lives in the tree. Other places where the flying fox are protected include Keelarajakularaman (95 kms from Madurai) and Sri Vaikundam (230 kms of Madurai) all in Tamil Nadu.

At the Anumanthaikuppam temple in Tamil Nadu animal sacrifices used to take place, but following a request from the head of a foundation that helped the village after the 2004 Tsunami, seven years later the fishing community rebuilt their temple with individual shrines for Ellai Amman, Ganesha, Subrahmanya, Shiva, Vishnu, Ayyappa and Kali. 50 Vedic Brahmin priests were brought in to effectively ensure that no animal sacrifice would take place and vegetarianism is observed on the temple premises.

In Uttar Pradesh, the law does not permit a liquor shop to exist within 50 metres of a religious place of worship or educational institution, nor can meat be sold around any shrines. Ayodhya, the birth place of Lord Rama has mainly vegetarian restaurants. Throughout the year no slaughter takes place here – except for kurbani (animal sacrifice) at Bakri Idd. In November 2018 after Faizabad was renamed Ayodhya, there was a demand from local seers to ban the sale of meat and liquor in the district. When the Uttar Pradesh state government declares the area around 14 Kosi Parikrama Marg in Ayodhya and the birthplace of Lord Krishna in Mathura as pilgrim centres a ban on the sale and consumption of non-vegetarian food and liquor will automatically come into effect. However, in reply to a 2023 RTI question, it was stated that no slaughter house or meat shop was operating in Ayodhya cantonment.

Not far from Mathura in UP and resembling the Taj Mahal, the Jaigurudeo temple (Naam Yog Sadhna Mandir) prohibits non-vegetarians’ donations.

The food served around the Mahaparinirvana Buddhist temple at Kushinagar in UP has to be pure vegetarian. Vrindavan has a number of restrictions imposed: no non-vegetarian food, smoking, drinking, and no one can enter the temples wearing shoes or having on them any leather objects. The ashrams serve Sattvik food. No animal can be slaughtered in Sarnath as the city has no abattoir. On religious grounds, in 1994, the historical pilgrim centre Hastinapur (Hastin = elephant + pura = city) in Meerut district was declared a vegetarian zone. Since Shaivites believe Lord Shiva the destroyer of the universe, who founded Varanasi is a vegetarian God, almost all the residents follow a Sattvic or “pure vegetarian” diet to the extent that they do not drink water in a home where eggs are consumed. Moreover, the 2019 ban on meat in Varanasi has resulted in a growing number of restaurants serving Sattvic food.

Honeybees that do not bite or sting are found at the Neelkanth Mahadev temple dedicated to Lord Shiva, situated 32 kms from Rishikesh. No one in Rishikesh, Haridwar (Mayapuri) and Muni Ki Reti of Uttarakhand state can consume non-vegetarian items. In 2004 the Supreme Court upheld a notification issued by the Rishikesh Municipal Board banning the sale of eggs on the grounds that the Board had only added eggs to the list of already banned non-vegetarian food articles like meat and fish which no one had till then challenged. The court held the view that it was desirable that the inhabitants and pilgrims observe vegetarianism and went on to say that “it is a matter of common knowledge that members of several communities in India are strictly vegetarian and shun meat, fish and eggs. In the three towns people mostly assemble for spiritual attainment and religious practices. Maintenance of clean and congenial atmosphere in all the religious places is in common interest. Peculiar culture of the three towns justifies complete restriction on trade and dealing in non-vegetarian items including eggs within the municipal limits.” Moreover, on the yatra route to these places, no shops are allowed to sell non-vegetarian items or liquor. At Haridwar fishing in the Ganga is not allowed. In March 2019 Notices to Zomato and Swiggy were served by the Uttarakhand Health Department for violating Municipal norms by delivering non-vegetarian food in restricted areas of the holy city. In March 2021 Uttarakhand declared all areas in Haridwar would be slaughterhouse-free, following which 2 petitions were filed in the High Court challenging it. On the basis of certain surveys of 2018 and 2019 (BWC strongly doubts it is so) the HC stated that 70 percent of Indians were vegetarian and requested the petitioners to amend their pleas against the ban and instead plead that it violated their right to privacy.

In 2022 the Uttarakhand High Court upheld the ban by the Uttarakand Zila Panchayat prohibiting the sale of meat within 500 metres of the banks of the Ganga river. While dismissing the writ petition filed by a meat shop owner, the court stated that any person who runs a meat shop for selling and butchering animals in Uttarkashi district must obtain a non-objection certificate from the concerned authority.

All hotels, guest houses, restaurants and eateries located at the holy places of Badrinath, Yamunotri, Kedarnath and Gangotri close to the Indo-Tibetan boarder in the state of Uttaranchal, serve pure vegetarian food and consumption of non-vegetarian and alcohol is strictly prohibited.

There is another vegetarian settlement in the Himalayan region called Itahari Tole, Bishnupur, Saptari, Nepal where all the residents consisting of about 200 families, not only strictly observe vegetarianism, but they never fish or hunt, and are against animal sacrifice because they believe in the Kabirpanthi philosophy.

Durga Puja is an annual Hindu festival observed particularly in West Bengal. It marks the victory of the goddess over the evil buffalo demon Mahishasura which is interpreted as victory of good over evil. Idols are installed and starting with Devi Durga the eyes are painted by artisans for who it is mandatory to consume only vegetarian food a day earlier.

Unlike other Kali temples, animals are not sacrificed at the Dakshineshwar temple, near Kolkata. Symbolic bali, the ritual sacrifice of white pumpkins, sugarcane and bananas is gradually becoming more frequent, replacing animal sacrifices. Sandhi Puja for the Goddess Durga on Maha Ashtami and during Navami Puja at the Ramakrishna Math and Mission at Belur has always been conducted without animal sacrifice.

The 5-day long Tihar festival which coincides with Diwali is observed by in Nepal, and also by Nepalese living in Sikkim and parts of West Bengal. It starts on the 13th tithi of Kartik Krishnapaksh. The 1st day is Kaag Tihar when crows and ravens are fed sweets and worshiped. (The crow is considered as the messenger of Yamraja, the god of death so people worship it to bring good luck.) The 2nd day is Kukur Tihar when dogs are garlanded and delicious food is given to them. (As mentioned in the Mahabharata, Bhairava, a fierce manifestation of Lord Shiva, had a dog as a vahana. Yamaraja owned 2 guard dogs with 4 eyes each who watch over the gates of hell.) The 3rd day morning for Gai Tihar cows are worshiped for prosperity and wealth. (Laxmi Puja is performed in the evening.) The 4th day is Goru Puja when oxen are worshiped. (The 5th day is Bhai Tika similar to Bhai Duj.)

The Islamic Jahar Peer (Gogaji), and Hindu serpent deities like Manasa and Jory, are worshipped to prevent or cure snake-bites. Aranyani is the goddess of forests and wildlife. Hanuman is the monkey-god. The mouse is worshipped as Lord Ganesha’s vehicle, and Lord Ganesha himself is depicted as an elephant. The cow is sacred to Lord Krishna’s devotees.

Lastly, the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKON), Sri Sri Ravi Shankar of the Art of Living and other spiritual institutions’ gurus like Dada J P Vaswani of the Sadhu Vaswani Mission, and Morari Bapu famous for his Ram Kathas have always extolled the benefits of a vegetarian diet among their devotees – as did the late Sri Sathya Sai Baba of Puttaparthi. Vegetarianism is also preached by Baba Ramdev who also recommends it for those who practice yoga – in fact, it is mandatory for the practice of hata yoga.

This is the reason why many non-vegetarians due to a religious association turn pure vegetarian or fast on particular days like Tuesdays (for Hanuman), Thursdays (for Sai Baba) or Saturdays (for Venkateshwara). No different to Christians who do not eat meat on Fridays (for Jesus). On July 16th Chailo a 40-day vegan period begins for the Sindhis. Most Zoroastrians abstain from eating meat only on particular days and during the entire month of Bahman although Zoroaster was himself a vegetarian and vegetarianism is stated to be the future state of the world in Palhlai scripture – Atrupat-e Emetan in Iran in Denkard Book VI requested all Zoroastrians to be vegetarian. The Parsee Vegetarian & Temperance Society finds a rise in vegetarians possibly on compassionate grounds.

Some believe in consuming a pure vegetarian diet on particular days of every month of the Hindu calendar (purnima, ekadasi, shivratri, karwa chauth) whereas many others turn vegetarian during Navaratri or for the entire month of Shravan. The basis of this is vrata or sacrifice undertaken to attain spiritual advancement, during which time the person is required to keep the body clean – it necessitates the observance a pure vegetarian diet, celibacy, truthfulness and forbearance.

In April 2022 an appeal was sent to the Union Minister of Civil Aviation by some animal activists requesting a ban on non-veg food on India’s domestic flights.

Page last updated on 31/12/23